It was in the second flatshare I lived in London. 2015. After a fling gone wrong with a flatmate in the first flat, I was desperate to find something new. What didn’t help was, that I gave my notice just before Christmas – the time when no one is moving. I had no problem setting up viewing, but the rooms shown to me were an absolute disaster. Mouldy, no windows etc. I finally found a place – no visible mould anywhere, the room a good size, the rent fair. When I viewed flat I didn’t really have the chance to meet the flatmates, all I knew was, that there were 4 guys – Italian and Spanish. I didn’t see a problem, I’m a quite easy-going flatmate – as long as you don’t annoy me, we’re fine. I’m quiet, respectful, mind my own business, clean up after myself and if you want to speak to me, no problem, I’m happy to hang out.
I’m not an extrovert – I feel a bit uncomfortable in new social situations. Having very different lifestyles (I worked 9-5, 2 my flatmates were bartenders, 1 working in a fastfood place & another one a freelancer in the film industry) and only a tiny kitchen as a common space didn’t make things easier for me. The first days, I introduced myself when I saw someone I hadn’t met. At times when my flatmates were at home, they played FIFA in the kitchen. 3 , sometimes 4 or more guys, in a tiny kitchen. You couldn’t even enter. Conversations were only held in Italian. Fair enough. I do that too – with my German friends in London I speak German – it’s easier, it’s natural. I wasn’t into playing playstation, nor did I speak Italian. There was no common ground. I didn’t care, I just minded my own business, hung out in my room.
When the problems started…
While I was fine with that, apparently some of the flatmates had a problem with me not hanging out with them. Funny enough, this was never brought up with me. Even if I don’t hang out in the kitchen a lot (why would I?), you know where my room is – if there’s a problem, knock, we can sort things out. When my cousin came to visit, one of my flatmates brought it up with her. Makes sense, right?! Complaining that I don’t hang out with you, when all you do all day is screaming at the TV in Italian while playing FIFA. What was I supposed to do? Stand in the kitchen, squeezing in a corner, watching you play playstation? Sure, I could have somehow figure out a way to hang out or something. But why force something when there’s no need to? After a while they started talking shit about me. Not all of them, but 2. I didn’t quite get it because it’s not like they put any effort into “our” relationship.
Party, alcohol, talking shit
On some weekends they were all going out together, partying hard. I could hear them come back and bitching about me. Emotions are running high when you’re intoxicated. One of them was telling the others to stop. But the other 2 were the loud, cocky ones – supposedly confident, outspoken, real manly men all those things – but in reality didn’t have the balls to actually speak to me about what is bothering them. I heard all of that, though about going downstairs, confronting them – but is it wise to confront 4 drunken/high guys? 4 against 1? And after all, it wasn’t me, who had a problem. “Fuck them I thought” turned around and fell back asleep.
Kicked in doors
The situation was bad, but it should get even worse. The loudest of them all was A. He was heavily tattooed, very conscious about his looks – trying to look his best at all time, acted overly confident – cocky, even, he was loud and in your face (not mine, obviously, he never even tried to speak to me). A. loved to party,loved his drugs. He constantly snuffled, I suspect there was too much going up his nose… After partying A. would come home fucked, completely out of his mind. And that’s when all of his demons came out.
He got really aggressive. Once, he came back from partying on a Wednesday night. The rest of us was sleeping. A. entered the flat and started screaming. For no reason. The oldest flatmate – T. – , a Spanish guy in his 30s who got along with A. really well, rushed downstairs, tried to calm him down. He couldn’t, A. was screaming about how he hated his life, everything was shit. T. like a therapist gave his best to help, told A. tales of his life, his experience. A. didn’t care, he just got more and more aggressive. He started kicking against the kitchen cabinets and the kitchen door.
For the next month, we did not have a kitchen door. It was leaning against the wall, the hinges were completely broken, the door itself marks of A.s kicking. The kitchen cabinets were also marked by his aggressions. The landlord noticed and asked about the door, they told him some stupid lie – to this day, I can’t believe he didn’t question that.
What should I do?
After that I was freaked out. I though about telling the landlord, but I knew the landlord wouldn’t kick A. out – he had known him for years. And it was an illegal sublet – we all had contracts, but payed in cash. I looked at other places, wanted to move, but the prices were out of my league. I started viewing flats again – tiny rooms, disgusting conditions and extortionate prices. I ended up staying.
And so it continues…
Soon 2 of my flatmates moved out, pretty much around the same time. However, A. and T. stayed. It got a bit more quiet. The new flatmates – also Italians – were much more level headed and I got along with one of them really well. The other one didn’t speak enough English , we couldn’t communicate properly. While overall things at the flat were better, A. continued to party. And guess what happened…
Another door got kicked in. It was ridiculous. Again, the landlord noticed but didn’t question the bullshit lie A. told him. At that point, I was thinking of reporting A. – not just to the landlord, but to maybe the police? I didn’t know what to do. It’s always easy to judge and give advice when you hear this story and you’re not in the situation. I came to the conclusion, that at least it wasn’t my door. I had a conversation about A. and his behaviour with F. – one of the “new” flatmates. F. told me that A. would be so fucked up that he couldn’t even remember what he had done the day after. We came to the conclusion, that A. was a deeply troubled guy with more insecurities than anyone else and that it’s all coming out when he’s under the influence. Of course that realisation doesn’t change the situation.
Clichés coming true
It’s a terrible cliché, but not long after, A. met a girl he fell for – hard. After dating for just a couple of months, she moved in. To my surprise she was really nice – a Spanish teacher, positive attitude, focused on the future and pretty. I did not understand why she would date someone like A. She deserved so much better. But it worked out fine for a while. A. was tamed.
Or so I thought. His “old”, or shall I say “true”, self came out again when they were fighting. After a night out, she got upset. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know. All I know is, that she locked herself in her room – crying. He tried to get in but she didn’t want to let him. I’m sure you can guess what happened next. Yep. You’re right. He started kicking against the door. I don’t think he damaged it as bad as the others, but bad enough that it wouldn’t close properly. The two of them somehow worked their problems out.
Leaving this hellhole
At the time I was working a PR job on a fixed-term contract. The flat was so convenient for me, because I could walk to work. While living there I was looking for a new place several times, went to countless viewings, but didn’t end up finding something. I started hating my job and couldn’t wait for my contract to be over. For the summer I had planned a trip through Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany and finally Austria. I didn’t know when I would come back to London. Just before my contract ended, I put all of my stuff in storage and gave notice to my landlord. F. had moved out months ago, there was no one in the flat I cared about. On the day of my departure I walked out of the door, holding up the finger high, thinking “fuck that place” and didn’t look back .
Should I have left this place earlier? In hindsight, yes, I should have removed myself from not just “this situation” but the countless fucked up situations that occurred at that flat. You’re always wiser looking back and at the end of the day it was “an experience” – to say the least.